Patristics Conference Diary 2

I checked in, and at 2:30 went down to the book displays.  These were fairly limited, but since I was resolved not to buy any more academic books if I could help it, this was all to the good.  About 60 participants are listed.

The first session at 3:30 was a lecture by Caroline Humfress on Patristics and Roman law.  This began with the observation that lawfare (a favourite subject of Ezra Levant) — the use of the courts by special interest groups to extend their imperium — is on the increase in our day, and that where religion and law meet is therefore a subject of current interest.  The lecture proceeded to identify various ways in which the law has moved from being increasingly secular and secularising, through to the 1980’s when a reverse trend began to be noticed, to this decade when books on religion and law are being published all the time and the “deprivatisation” of religion is now on the table.  The lecture was delivered with great clarity, over an hour and a quarter, and was of great interest.  Unfortunately it did not stick in my memory!

This was followed by two sessions with three alternatives.  I chose Thomas Fedrick Illsley’s The defence of Eusebius of Caesarea in 17th century Anglicanism.  The Catholic writers Baronius and Petavius had listed the ways in which the fathers disagreed, in order to promote the idea that the church must be able to decide which is right, and exalted Athanasius.  Eusebius came in for criticism as a semi-Arian.  In response to this Bishop Bull in his Defence of the Nicene Creed and William Cave in a letter to someone (I couldn’t catch this) looked more at what the Nicene definition meant at the time.  They listed ways in which Eusebius definitely rejected the Arian propositions of Arius himself, the only ones around at the time.  Eusebius does frequently indicate that the Son is subordinate to the Father; but always in status, not in nature.  They pointed out that he signed the creed, they made use of the shorter form of his letter to the churches of Caesarea (the additional material in Theodoret they rejected as an addition), and they indicated that, while he may not have agreed with Athanasius, his views were indeed those of the Nicene council, reached after careful thought, agreed to in the case of peace, and should be judged accordingly and not by later invective in Jerome against Rufinus.  At the end of the session Timothy Barnes arose and suggested that the real case against Eusebius has to be found in the Eclogae propheticae, only discovered ca. 1840, where Christ is called “deuteros theos” repeatedly.  This Bull and Cave could not have read.  He then made the point that the same expression was found in the Praeparatio evangelica and enquired how they dealt with this.  The answer was as second in status, not in nature; Eusebius believed that the Father and Son were of the same substance.  The speaker also made the point that the unnatural concentration on the word “homoousios” was really Arian propaganda, to make the Nicene definition seem strange by concentrating on one unusual word, and that the whole creed should be considered.

The final paper (at 5:25) was by Sebastian Moll, Marcion after Harnack.  Dr Moll began by saying that he would far rather address an English audience than a German one, as the latter would tend to say “how dare you disagree with Harnack”!  He listed four things about Marcion which Harnack stated in 1921; and suggested that all were flawed.  Most interesting to me was when he quoted Harnack demanding that the Old Testament be dumped, and then suggested that actually nothing in Marcion himself corresponds to this (Apelles held this view, but not Marcion).  Rather, he suggested Marcion thought the Old Testament really did reveal the evil God, and, being a dualist, retained that for just that reason, like one of two eyes.  His revised ‘Gospel’ was likewise intended to portray the good God.  All this led me to think that I should revisit the Marcion testimonia, to see what they really say! 

During the coffee breaks I found myself talking to Richard Price, who has translated large wodges of the acts of the ecumenical councils for Liverpool University Press.  It was very interesting to hear about his work, and how many people are not even aware that there are acts available for these councils.

At dinner there was discussion of whether there will be a volume.  I hope both these papers will appear! I sat next to Andrew Maguire of earlychurchtexts.org, and was interested to hear that the letter of Theodoret on the death of Cyril of Alexandria was online at his site (here).  The letter may be spurious, but who knows?

Tomorrow has a very long list of papers I would like to hear, plus a tour of the cathedral led by one of the canons.  But there is relatively little on Friday, so if the weather is good I might duck that!

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